Navigating the Prohibition on Publication: Section 159 of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012


In the pursuit of safeguarding the parties and maintaining the integrity of legal proceedings, many jurisdictions have established laws that restrict the publication of certain information. These laws aim to balance the right to a fair hearing and protect individuals, particularly in cases involving domestic and family violence. In Queensland, section 159 of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 contains a prohibition on publication.


Closed Court domestic violence proceedings


Unlike criminal proceedings, domestic violence proceedings are civil proceedings and are conducted in a closed court.  Ordinarily, courts are open to the public to ensure transparency and accountability. Most criminal proceedings and civil proceedings in Queensland are public and open, accessible to the public at any time.


Domestic violence proceedings, however, are closed to the public. No members of the public, including media and journalists, can be in the courtroom unless they are a party to the proceedings.  The people you will ordinarily find in the Courtroom at your domestic violence hearing include:


  1. The Magistrate and other court staff;
  2. The parties – called the Applicant, the Aggrieved and the Respondent; and
  3. Legal representatives for each party.


Prohibition on publication


The prohibition on publication outlined in Section 159 prevents the identification of parties involved in domestic and family violence proceedings. It restricts the disclosure of names, addresses, photographs, and other information that could lead to the identification of the aggrieved, respondent, a child of a relevant relationship or any other named person or witness involved in the case. Additionally, this prohibition extends to any information that could reveal the nature or circumstances of the alleged behaviour.


The prohibition on publication serves multiple purposes, each with the ultimate goal of fostering a safe and supportive environment for victims and their families. Some key objectives include:


  • Protecting the safety of aggrieved persons: By preventing the identification of aggrieved people, section 159 aims to minimize the risk of retaliation, harassment, or further harm that could arise from public exposure.
  • Ensuring fair hearing rights: The prohibition on publication helps preserve the integrity of legal proceedings by preventing potential bias or prejudice that could arise from public discussion.
  • Encouraging reporting and seeking help: By maintaining anonymity, people the subject of domestic violence may feel more empowered to come forward, knowing that their privacy will be protected and their personal information will not be widely disseminated.
  • Safeguarding children and other vulnerable parties: The prohibition on publication helps shield children, extended family members, and witnesses from potential harm and undue attention that may arise from public knowledge of the case.


An offence to publish


A contravention of prohibition on publication provision is an offence punishable by 100 penalty units or up to 2 years imprisonment if you are an individual. There are some specific circumstances in which the publication of information given in evidence to the DV Court or which identifies or is likely to identify a relevant person would not amount to an offence. Those exceptions are:


  1. If the Court expressly authorises the information to be published;
  2. If each person to whom the information relates consents to the information being published;
  3. To the display of a notice in the premises of a court;
  4. To the publication of information for the purpose of a recognised series of law reports;
  5. To the publication of information for approved research;
  6. If the publication is expressly permitted or required under this or another Act; or
  7. If the publication is permitted under a regulation.


While the definition of publish is specific, it is important to be cautious when handling documents or other evidence from a domestic violence proceeding to ensure that you are not placed in a position where you are contravening the legislation.


Takeaways for parties


Parties to a domestic violence proceeding should be wary of the non-publication provisions and ensure that they are complying with the obligation not to publish information to the public. Some examples of this include:


  1. Distributing documents from the proceedings to friends or associates.
  2. Publishing comments about the proceedings on social media that identify parties, allegations, findings or comments made during the proceedings.


In addition to the publication of those documents being an offence, it is also possible that if you are the respondent to an order and engage in that type of behaviour, it may amount to a breach of a protection order because it may be evidence of you not being of good behaviour and committing domestic violence against the aggrieved.


Section 159 of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 plays a vital role in safeguarding the privacy, safety, and dignity of all parties involved in domestic and family violence cases. By balancing the need for fair hearings, protecting aggrieved people, and minimizing the potential for harm, this provision strives to create a supportive environment for those affected by these offenses.


Contact a domestic violence lawyer at Robertson O’Gorman Solicitors if you require advice about the privacy of your domestic violence proceedings.